Marti Epstein

Professor

"There's a misconception about our department that because we teach the core courses, we're sort of old-fashioned, and we're not. In some ways we're even more adventurous than people in some of the other departments."

"I would say that the composition students here are not composing jazz. Specifically, they're not composing commercial music. They're not composing jingles. They may be composing film music, because we have a lot of dual majors. They're usually composing music that's artistically interesting and specifically for the concert hall."

"I think we do a better job of teaching concert music here than at other, more conventional music schools. Not only are the students here exposed to the whole classical canon, they're exposed to all different contemporary styles: jazz and all different kinds of pop styles and everything. So in a way they're getting a broader education."

"To graduate, students have to have a portfolio of pieces and—very important—they have to have a certain number of these pieces performed. Because one of the aspects of a composer's training is, how do you get people to play your music?"

"So we try to get them to start doing that right away. The number one thing I do is to try to get them to hear everything they write. In my Techniques of Tonal Writing (CM-221) class, students are always writing for piano, and I spend a very substantial part of the class playing their pieces for them. Because I don't think you can compose in a vacuum. You have to be listening to what you're writing all the time."

"The feedback from me as a performer is invaluable, because I can say, 'Well, this isn't playable in this situation because of this.' Whereas if they're just sitting and sequencing what they're writing, they don't know what a human can and can't do."

"So you have to develop really good writing skills before the technology will work for you in the way it's supposed to. And live performance, the human element, is so intangible, but so necessary and so exciting."

Career Highlights

  • B.M., University of Colorado
  • M.M., D.M.A., Boston University
  • Composer with numerous international commissions
  • Recordings include Albion Moonlight by Atlantic Brass, The Five Chairs by the University of Iowa Brass Quintet, and Waterbowls by Kathy Supore
  • Orchestral work Celestial Navigation premiered by the San Francisco Symphony; Print premiered by the Radio Sinfonie Orchestra of Frankfurt; and Twylle commissioned and premiered by the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra
  • Residencies at the MacDowell Colony
  • Recipient of Fromm Foundation 1998 Commission